This post is to record the experience of our first pig slaughter – a major milestone of our Alekovo adventure. Some people may find some of the images a little bit distressing – but I can’t apologise for that because this process is a real part of raising livestock for consumption; done with respect, appreciation, care and love for the critters when they are alive and also at every step of processing on the way to our table.
We’d planned on slaughtering our two freezer pigs in December after both litters of piglets had been born. The week before the planned date a villager asked if we had a pig they could buy for Christmas (very traditional) so we said yes – the price was right at a seasonal rate of 3 leva (£1.30, $1.60 or €1.53) per kilo based on the live weight – this first pig finally weighed in at 150kg on slaughter day.
We thought that the one remaining pig would certainly be enough for us to see (a) how much meat was actually produced and (b) how long it lasted us. Freezer pig #2 was actually the smallest of our pigs and my weight estimate (using the UK/US method of measuring the heart girth and the head to tail length) was approximately 130kg.
I have witnessed two slaughter events previously and both shocked me by the inhumane methods used. I was very pleased that my neighbour did the deed quickly, quietly, calmly and respectfully even though it took 3 strong men and one strong woman to hold the pig still! I hope in future I will have the right equipment, or know the right person who has the right equipment, to make this process even quicker.
We lit the fire for the hot water about 9 o’clock, the slaughter took place at roughly 10.30 and we all tidied up and the carcass hanging by 4pm. The slaughterman and his assistant worked carefully and methodically throughout the whole process with no breaks and I have to say I was impressed by their respectful attitude – unlike what I had seen in my previous experiences. I’m sure the process is the same the whole world over (in one form or another)…
- Washing the carcass
- Burning off the hair
- Scraping the charred skin
- Scalding the carcass (then it was wrapped in blankets to keep the heat in for about 30 minutes)
- Using salt to scour the whole carcass and rinsing it off
- Removing the head
- Opening up the carcass
- Removing the organs, intestines and trotters
The slaughterman also checked the heart, liver, kidneys and lungs for any signs of worms and other parasites and I was really pleased that none were found, particularly as we have not used any chemical / pharmaceutical wormers or medicines on any of our livestock (neither have they had any medicated feed mixtures).
There will always be arguments about the proper or right or more humane ways of slaughtering livestock, but in Bulgaria (as in many other countries, the UK being no different in my lifetime certainly) they have been slaughtering their animals in the same way for generations – and usually (there are always exceptions and horror stories including my own experiences here) for efficiency and speed slaughtering is done as quickly and efficiently as they can.
Here’s a few photos from the process, without too much blood and guts…
The carcass was finally hung in the garage for 2 days (average temperature -4C) before butchering, which will be the subject of our next post.
The trotters (apparently traditionally, I am told) went to the slaughterman and we decided to donate the head and offal to some of our neighbours. Once Jane is here I’m sure we will keep much more of our next pig and make things like black pudding, faggots, brawn etc., although we did keep (and empty and wash) the intestines to use as casings for sausages and salami – they are now salted and packed and in the fridge. But I’m still unlikely to cook delicacies like deep fried pigs ears or braised tail!